Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book, The Cost of Discipleship is a classic. It powerfully describes Christ’s call for men to “come and die” in order to be His disciple.
In as many times as I have discussed that book with friends, I’ve never thought about an equally important concept –until now. Since a true disciple of Christ will become a disciple-maker of others (after all, that is Christ-like), we must also consider the cost of disciple-making.
Initially, we may think the cost is time and energy. Certainly this is true. Disciple-making is a commitment to open up your life to another person. It’s an act of service that requires long hours, late-night calls, inconvenient conversations, and out-of-the way trips.
But the cost of disciple-making doesn’t stop there. In fact, time and energy are actually just the beginning of the cost.
The real difficulty of disciple-making comes from the nature of the task: Helping a fellow redeemed sinner grow in Christ. Read that last sentence again. It implies (biblically) that every believer, while on this earth, is still growing. We still make mistakes, act selfishly, rebel against God, and hurt those who care for us.
Disciple-makers must accept the fact that there will be times when they will be hurt, let down, taken for granted, and used. This is where we must realize that we are like a bridge –laying down our lives for the good of others. And, like any good bridge, we will be walked all over.
But don’t let that discourage you. In fact, let it encourage you. Why? Because in laying down your life for others, you are being Christ-like toward them (I John 3:16).
That’s why Scripture calls us to “bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2), “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another” (Ephesians 4:32), “bear with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2), “teach and admonish one another in all wisdom” (Colossians 3:16), and “exhort one another every day” (Hebrews 3:13).
Those aren’t words to pass over lightly. Exhorting, rebuking, forgiving, bearing, and admonishing are all painfully difficult. And at the same time, when in Christ strength, they are incredibly joyful. Why? Because there is nothing greater than identifying with Christ in His sufferings –especially when those sufferings produce disciples (3 John 1:4).
So, before you venture off into disciple-making, take a moment to count the costs. Just be sure to count them in light of the immense joy found in identifying with Christ –the master disciple-maker.